Fair Housing

In my work as a reporter, I get to dip my hand into many different buckets. I mostly write about education, school boards, budgets, kids and teachers. But I found myself this week pursuing a story about implementing the federal Fair Housing Act in my municipality.

Under the FHA, overseen by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, it is against the law to discriminate against a person seeking housing based on:

-National Origin
-Familial Status (whether or not you have kids)

I began researching the FHA after hearing a story from a co-worker, whose friend and his girlfriend were told by an apartment complex leasing manager that they were not allowed to live in a one bedroom apartment because they are not married.

I thought, certainly nowadays, it can't be legal to deny a particular type of housing to a couple because they are not married.

After several phone calls to HUD in D.C. and locally to the Austin Tenants Council, I discovered there is no state or federal law that prevents this type of discrimination based on marital status. This means a single person could be denied the purchase of a home because he or she is single. It also means unwed parents of a child can be denied housing, so long as the stated reason is marital status, not familial status.

Another, possibly more obvious group excluded from protected rights is the LGBT community. There are local laws that prevent housing discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation, such as in D.C. and Austin, but no umbrella exists to protect all persons from discrimination when seeking housing.

I have a hard time understanding why the seven criteria are included, but marital status and sexual orientation have been left off the list. The FHA was introduced in 1968 and amended in 1988 - 23 years ago. Times have changed. Every person deserves the same rights to ensure prejudice is prevented.

Some might applaud an apartment complex, landlord or home seller who would disallow unmarried couples and gays to live in their community. That audience is the same that 40 years ago would have applauded the racism and sexism that is now outlawed under the FHA. Put simply, if you can't forbid me from living somewhere based on my sex, why is it permitted because I'm single?

I don't often publicize my political views, but this issue makes me cringe. Discrimination is discrimination, and no group deserves it.

Go here to read more about the Fair Housing Act.

Go here to contact your legislator about the issue.

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